A First Timer’s Guide to Vail Mountain, CO

Matt Scribner |
Vail ski resort
Vail in all its Rocky Mountain glory (Image: Uncover Colorado)

Looking to visit Vail for the first time but don’t know where to start? With 5,289 acres of skiable terrain, a beautiful base village widely regarded as one of the best in the nation, and dozens of fantastic food and restaurant options, Vail is undoubtedly one of the premier mountain destinations in the world. With so many excellent options, having a basic understanding of the area and knowing what to look for can significantly enhance your visit. We have compiled a list of things to know, see, and do during your stop in this Rocky Mountain paradise to help make your trip to Vail as magical as possible:

Let’s start with some basic facts about the mountain. Located in Eagle County, Colorado, the resort opened in 1962 and is the largest in the state. Sporting a whopping 3,450 feet of vertical drop and an average of 354″ of snow per year, it’s safe to say that you can you’ll find no shortage of Rocky Mountain powder here. Topping out at 11,570 feet above sea level, the views at Vail are endless. With 31 chair lifts serving 18% beginner, 29% intermediate, and 53% advanced terrain, there are plenty of options for everyone in the family. The resort is massive, and you can spend an entire week exploring while still finding pockets of new terrain to ski. The famous back bowls should be considered a bucket list item for any skier or snowboarder, offering unique terrain and deep powder that locals and visitors alike know all too well. With all of this in mind, what are you waiting for?

The unique architecture of Vail Village offers a European Alpine vibe (Image: Vail Ski Resort)

Need to pick up a lift ticket? Maybe some rentals as well? The Vail Village Mountain Plaza has got you covered. With ticket offices and a well-stocked rental center near the Gondola 1 and Gopher Hill Chair Lift, you’ll be on the slopes in no time. If you have an Epic Pass, you can hop on a chairlift as you arrive! Also located in the base area is Vail’s highly professional and critically acclaimed ski school. You can book private or group lessons to learn the basics of skiing or snowboarding or take your skills to the next level.

Located conveniently off of Colorado’s main ski town artery, I-70, Vail has a plethora of parking options for you to choose from. There are four main lots to choose from, each with different amenities surrounding them. The most popular option is Vail Village, which provides access to dozens of excellent restaurants and shops a short walk to Gondola 1. The winter rates for this lot are 0 – 2 hours: Free, 2 – 3 hours: $10, 3 – 4 hours: $20, >4 – 15 hours: $30, and 15 – 24 hours: $50. Another great option is the Lionshead Village, which offers access to the Arabelle Square Ice Rink, Eagle Bahn gondola (Gondola 19), and Born Free Express. The winter rates for this lot are 0 – 2 hours: Free, 2 – 3 hours: $10, 3 – 4 hours: $20, >4 15 hours: $30, 15 – 24 hours: $50. Other options include Golden Peak and Cascade Village, which offer less access to amenities but serve as terrific options on busy days.

Back bowl
Vail’s legendary back bowls bask in the sun on a beautiful bluebird day (Image: Vail Blog)

Looking for something to do after a long day on the mountain? Vail has got you covered. Vail and Lionshead Village have tremendous shopping, dining, and entertainment locations. Lancelot Restaurant offers amazing prime rib and is considered a can’t miss spot by many who visit. If you’re looking for some hearty Italian, head to La Nonna Ristorante. For a more laid-back vibe and some great beer, Vail Brewing Company is a must for those of drinking age. You can also treat yourself to a nice shopping day at hundreds of storefronts, including Lamina Jewelry and Gallery, Raitman Art Gallery, 8150 Ski Shop, Skipper & Scout, and Wild Bill’s Emporium, among others. On top of all these great options, you can ice skate at the Arabelle Square Ice Rink and relax at any of the amazing spas in the area, like Sonnenalp Spa. Talk about a great town to Aprés ski!

Vail has long been considered a mecca of skiing for good reason. With superb conditions and tons of powder to start the 2022-23 season, there’s no better time to book your dream vacation to Vail than now! With a storied history that spans decades and terrain that can’t be replicated elsewhere, the resort is just waiting to create lifelong memories for you and your family.

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4 thoughts on “A First Timer’s Guide to Vail Mountain, CO

  1. Problem with flail, I mean Vail, is your skiing pretty flat runs then you look across the valley and see some pretty impressive mountains, and wonder why didn’t they build a resort in those hills? Vail, four exits off a freeway, creating fake bavalia.

  2. Vail is the best. No commoners. The best low-angle terrain in the country, and that’s not counting the EXTREME Back Bowls.

  3. Wow, “Sporting a whopping 3,450 feet of vertical drop and an average of 354 feet of snow per year”. They must get some insanely deep snowpack.

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